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Sabine Hossenfelder: There is a crisis in physics and it may spread to other sciences

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Lost in Math

Sabine Hossenfelder, author of Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray,, thinks that the current crisis in physics is not only about physics:

In the foundations of physics, we have not seen progress since the mid 1970s when the standard model of particle physics was completed. Ever since then, the theories we use to describe observations have remained unchanged. Sure, some aspects of these theories have only been experimentally confirmed later. The last to-be-confirmed particle was the Higgs-boson, predicted in the 1960s, measured in 2012. But all shortcomings of these theories – the lacking quantization of gravity, dark matter, the quantum measurement problem, and more – have been known for more than 80 years. And they are as unsolved today as they were then…

Instead of examining the way that they propose hypotheses and revising their methods, theoretical physicists have developed a habit of putting forward entirely baseless speculations. Over and over again I have heard them justifying their mindless production of mathematical fiction as “healthy speculation” – entirely ignoring that this type of speculation has demonstrably not worked for decades and continues to not work. There is nothing healthy about this. It’s sick science. And, embarrassingly enough, that’s plain to see for everyone who does not work in the field.

This behavior is based on the hopelessly naïve, not to mention ill-informed, belief that science always progresses somehow, and that sooner or later certainly someone will stumble over something interesting. But even if that happened – even if someone found a piece of the puzzle – at this point we wouldn’t notice, because today any drop of genuine theoretical progress would drown in an ocean of “healthy speculation”.

Sabine Hossenfelder, “The crisis in physics is not only about physics” at BackRe(Action)

Many science writers probably like the current state of affairs because nonsense about the multiverse and space aliens is easy to write. Artists might like it because it is easy to illustrate. Only if you cared about physics would you want to spoil the party.

Okay, Hossenfelder cares about physics (sigh.) So she suggests, “I have said many times that looking at the history of physics teaches us that resolving inconsistencies has been a reliable path to breakthroughs, so that’s what we should focus on. I may be on the wrong track with this, of course. But for all I can tell at this moment in history I am the only physicist who has at least come up with an idea for what to do.”

How would things change, specifically, if her advice were followed?


See also: Sabine Hossenfelder On The Future Of Particle Physics

and

Sabine Hossenfelder Asks If Reductionism Has Run Its Course

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5 Replies to “Sabine Hossenfelder: There is a crisis in physics and it may spread to other sciences

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    ‘Over and over again I have heard them justifying their mindless production of mathematical fiction as “healthy speculation” – entirely ignoring that this type of speculation has demonstrably not worked for decades and continues to not work. There is nothing healthy about this. It’s sick science.’
    It’s sick what ?

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    I’d argue that the trend is going the other way. There’s no crisis in physics because physics as an academic subject died 100 years ago. Newton is still in charge of the world, and real engineers use Newton all the time. But the study of “physics”, and the billion-dollar grants for “physics”, have nothing to do with real physics. Most of them are devoted to obliterating civilization and the universe, which is not science.

    Is the crisis spreading? No.

    “Social” “science” was never science at all, so no crisis there. Just the same craziness and monstrous evil for 100 years. Nothing good, nothing new.

    Big parts of biology are coming OUT of a 50-year crisis, as biologists and geneticists take off their theory goggles and examine reality. Life turns out to be a whole lot more varied and interesting than we thought in 1960, and many biologists are seeing it clearly and beautifully.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Sabine Hossenfelder states her frustration with the current state of physics this way,

    Over and over again I have heard them justifying their mindless production of mathematical fiction as “healthy speculation” – entirely ignoring that this type of speculation has demonstrably not worked for decades and continues to not work.

    Penrose echoed Hossenfelder’s frustration,

    ‘What is referred to as M-theory isn’t even a theory. It’s a collection of ideas, hopes, aspirations. It’s not even a theory and I think the book is a bit misleading in that respect. It gives you the impression that here is this new theory which is going to explain everything. It is nothing of the sort. It is not even a theory and certainly has no observational (evidence),,, I think the book suffers rather more strongly than many (other books). It’s not a uncommon thing in popular descriptions of science to latch onto some idea, particularly things to do with string theory, which have absolutely no support from observations.,,, They are very far from any kind of observational (testability). Yes, they (the ideas of M-theory) are hardly science.”
    – Roger Penrose – former close colleague of Stephen Hawking – in critique of Hawking’s new book ‘The Grand Design’ the exact quote is in the following video clip:
    Roger Penrose Debunks Stephen Hawking’s New Book ‘The Grand Design’ – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dg_95wZZFr4

    Simply put, it you cannot prove that your ‘mathematical speculations’ are connected to the real world in some meaningful way through empirical observation then you might as well be writing fantasy novels.

    Moreover, it is not as if the current mathematical theories that we have are disagreeing with empirical observation, (in fact the theories are empirically confirmed to be true to almost absurd levels of precision), it is, first and foremost, that the current mathematical theories that we have, namely quantum mechanics and general relativity, simply refuse to be mathematically unified with each other into a quote/unquote ‘theory of everything’ in any acceptable way.

    The main problem that arises in the attempts to unify quantum mechanics and general relativity into a quote/unquote ‘theory of everything’ has to do with the infinities that crop up in those attempts,

    THE MYSTERIOUS ZERO/INFINITY
    Excerpt: The biggest challenge to today’s physicists is how to reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics. However, these two pillars of modern science were bound to be incompatible. “The universe of general relativity is a smooth rubber sheet. It is continuous and flowing, never sharp, never pointy. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, describes a jerky and discontinuous universe. What the two theories have in common – and what they clash over – is zero.”,, “The infinite zero of a black hole — mass crammed into zero space, curving space infinitely — punches a hole in the smooth rubber sheet. The equations of general relativity cannot deal with the sharpness of zero. In a black hole, space and time are meaningless.”,, “Quantum mechanics has a similar problem, a problem related to the zero-point energy. The laws of quantum mechanics treat particles such as the electron as points; that is, they take up no space at all. The electron is a zero-dimensional object,,, According to the rules of quantum mechanics, the zero-dimensional electron has infinite mass and infinite charge.
    http://www.fmbr.org/editoral/e....._mar02.htm

    Quantum Mechanics & Relativity – Michio Kaku – The Collapse Of Physics As We Know It ? – video
    https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2jbd7x

    Whereas the infinity between Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity was ‘renormalizable’ ., (i.e. brushed under the rug) in Quantum Electrodynamics, (at the unacceptable cost of tossing Quantum Measurement and/or Conscious Observation itself by the wayside),,,

    THE INFINITY PUZZLE: Quantum Field Theory and the Hunt for an Orderly Universe
    Excerpt: In quantum electrodynamics, which applies quantum mechanics to the electromagnetic field and its interactions with matter, the equations led to infinite results for the self-energy or mass of the electron. After nearly two decades of effort, this problem was solved after World War II by a procedure called renormalization, in which the infinities are rolled up into the electron’s observed mass and charge, and are thereafter conveniently ignored. Richard Feynman, who shared the 1965 Nobel Prize with Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga for this breakthrough, referred to this sleight of hand as “brushing infinity under the rug.”
    http://www.americanscientist.o.....g-infinity

    This “brushing infinity under the rug” to unify special relativity and quantum mechanics into QED came at the (unacceptable) cost of also brushing ‘the measument problem’ and/or conscious observation under the rug. As Adam Becker stated, “Although quantum field theory is fully compatible with the special theory of relativity, a relativistic treatment of quantum measurement has yet to be formulated.”

    Not So Real – Sheldon Lee Glashow – Oct. 2018
    Review of: “What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics”
    by Adam Becker
    Excerpt: Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and their contemporaries knew well that the theory they devised could not be made compatible with Einstein’s special theory of relativity. First order in time, but second order in space, Schrödinger’s equation is nonrelativistic. Although quantum field theory is fully compatible with the special theory of relativity, a relativistic treatment of quantum measurement has yet to be formulated.
    https://inference-review.com/article/not-so-real

    The Measurement Problem
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB7d5V71vUE

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    ,,,Whereas the infinity between Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity was ‘renormalizable’ into Quantum Electrodynamics, (at the unacceptable cost of tossing Quantum Measurement and/or Conscious Observation itself by the wayside), no such ‘mathematical slieght of hand’ exists for unifying quantum mechanics and general relativity. General relativity simply refuses to be mathematically unified with quantum mechanics in any acceptable way. In technical terms, Gravity has yet to be successfully included into a theory of everything since the infinities that crop up in that attempt are not renormalizable as they were in Quantum-Electrodynamics.

    Unified field theory
    Excerpt: Gravity has yet to be successfully included in a theory of everything.
    Simply trying to combine the graviton with the strong and electroweak interactions runs into fundamental difficulties since the resulting theory is not renormalizable. Theoretical physicists have not yet formulated a widely accepted, consistent theory that combines general relativity and quantum mechanics. The incompatibility of the two theories remains an outstanding problem in the field of physics.
    Some theoretical physicists currently believe that a quantum theory of general relativity may require frameworks other than field theory itself, such as string theory or loop quantum gravity.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_field_theory#Current_status

    Does quantum mechanics contradict the theory of relativity?
    Sanjay Sood, Microchip Design Engineer, Theoretical and Applied Physicist – Feb 14, 2016
    Excerpt: quantum mechanics was first integrated with special theory of relativity by Dirac in 1928 just 3 years after quantum mechanics was discovered. Dirac produced an equation that describes the behavior of a quantum particle (electron). In this equation the space and time enter on the same footing – equation is first order in all 4 coordinates. One startling by product of this equation was the prediction of anti matter. It also gave the correct explanation for the electron’s spin. Dirac’s equation treats an electron as a particle with only a finite degrees of freedom.
    In 1940s Dirac’s equation was incorporated into the relativistic quantum field theory that’s knowns as quantum electrodynamics (QED) independently by Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga. This is the theory that describes the behavior of electrons and photons and their interactions with each other in terms of relativistic quantum fields that have infinite degrees of freedom. QED allowed extremely precise calculation of anomalous magnetic dipole moment of an electron. This calculated value matches the experimentally measured value to an astonishing precision of 12 decimal places!
    The integration of Einstein’s general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics has proved to be far more difficult. Such an integration would give a quantum theory of gravity. Even after a sustained effort lasting more than half a century, no renormalized quantum field theory of gravity has ever been produced. Renormalization means a theory that’s free of infinities at zero distance or infinite energy because 2 point particles can interact with each other at zero distance. A non renormalizable theory has no predictive value because it contains an infinite number of singular coefficients.
    https://www.quora.com/Does-quantum-mechanics-contradict-the-theory-of-relativity

    As Professor Jeremy Bernstein states, “there remains an irremediable difficulty. Every order reveals new types of infinities, and no finite number of renormalizations renders all the terms in the series finite.”

    Quantum Leaps – Jeremy Bernstein – October 19, 2018
    Excerpt: Divergent series notwithstanding, quantum electrodynamics yielded results of remarkable accuracy. Consider the magnetic moment of the electron. This calculation, which has been calculated up to the fifth order in ?, agrees with experiment to ten parts in a billion. If one continued the calculation to higher and higher orders, at some point the series would begin to break down. There is no sign of that as yet. Why not carry out a similar program for gravitation? One can readily write down the Feynman graphs that represent the terms in the expansion. Yet there remains an irremediable difficulty. Every order reveals new types of infinities, and no finite number of renormalizations renders all the terms in the series finite.
    The theory is not renormalizable.
    https://inference-review.com/article/quantum-leaps
    Jeremy Bernstein is professor emeritus of physics at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

    Thus, there clearly appears to be an impenetrable, even a mathematically infinite, barrier that prevents theoretical physicists from ever realizing their dream of a single overarching mathematical theory of everything.

    And yet if we rightly allow the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics, as the Christian founders of modern science originally envisioned,,,, (Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, James Clerk Maxwell, and Max Planck, to name a few of the Christian founders),,, and as quantum mechanics itself now empirically demands (with the closing of the free will loophole by Anton Zeilinger and company), if we rightly allow the Agent causality of God ‘back’ into physics then that provides us with a very plausible resolution for the much sought after ‘theory of everything’ in that Christ’s resurrection from the dead provides an empirically backed reconciliation, (via the Shroud of Turin), between quantum mechanics and general relativity into the much sought after ‘Theory of Everything”. Here are a few posts where I lay out and defend some of the empirical evidence for that claim:

    Overturning of the Copernican Principle by both General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/we-are-invited-to-consider-a-simpler-perspective-on-the-laws-of-physics/#comment-680427

    (February 19, 2019) To support Isabel Piczek’s claim that the Shroud of Turin does indeed reveal a true ‘event horizon’, the following study states that ‘The bottom part of the cloth (containing the dorsal image) would have born all the weight of the man’s supine body, yet the dorsal image is not encoded with a greater amount of intensity than the frontal image.’,,,
    Moreover, besides gravity being dealt with, the shroud also gives us evidence that Quantum Mechanics was dealt with. In the following paper, it was found that it was not possible to describe the image formation on the Shroud in classical terms but they found it necessary to describe the formation of the image on the Shroud in discrete quantum terms.
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/experiment-quantum-particles-can-violate-the-mathematical-pigeonhole-principle/#comment-673178
    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/experiment-quantum-particles-can-violate-the-mathematical-pigeonhole-principle/#comment-673179

    Verse,

    Colossians 1:15-20
    The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

  5. 5
    vmahuna says:

    Polistra @2
    YES! Very much.
    The artificial debates are driven by the need for “new ideas” that MIGHT land the guy funding through grants. Better yet, he MIGHT get his wacko idea discussed on fake science TV shows.

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